EUGENE, Ore. – For Shea Collinsworth, the decision to begin her professional running career in TrackTown USA was an easy one.
The six-time all-American middle distance runner at BYU was looking for an accomplished coach with impeccable credentials, the opportunity to train with world-class athletes, and a community that embraces running.
Collinsworth, 23, checked all of those boxes when she joined Oregon Track Club Elite this past fall.
“(Eugene) was definitely my top choice,” said Collinsworth, a 2017 graduate with a degree in Family Studies. “It was the reputation of Coach Rowland, the team and its athletes … and the fact that this is TrackTown USA. If you want to be a runner, this is the place to be.”
Unfortunately for Collinsworth, her pro career got off to a slow start after undergoing surgery on her right big toe last July. She couldn’t run a step for six weeks and is just now learning how to pace herself as she eases back into full workouts. Thus far, her lone outdoor appearance in an OTC Elite singlet came as the pacer for the women’s 800m at the UO Twilight Meet in early May.
“Shea is positive and eager to convert onto the international arena,” OTC Elite Coach Mark Rowland said. “It’s her eagerness that is her biggest challenge coming out of college this year. There is a desire to press a little harder than she probably should.”
Collinsworth, a prep standout at Davis High School in Layton, Utah – about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City – is doing her best to remain patient.
“I’m feeling good, 100 percent, but Coach wants to fine-tune me a bit more,” she said. “My body is starting to handle workouts better, so I feel like I’m adapting … Coach has been really patient with me, willing to change things up to meet my specific needs, which is a big reason why I wanted to come here. He’s really good at developing individualized training programs for his athletes.”
While Collinsworth still lags a bit behind in fitness, she relishes the chance to mix it up in training each day with her teammates – Olympic silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba and fellow newcomer Hanna Green.
“We have really good team chemistry,” Collinsworth said. “I love it. I was nervous coming in because Francine is so good at what she does. I stalked her on Instagram and she seemed really intense, but she has been so encouraging to me and Hanna. She’s a goofball and she keeps telling us, ‘you can do it.’”
Outside of the track, Collinsworth is looking forward to an upcoming milestone in her life. On June 18, she will celebrate her third wedding anniversary with her husband, Kyle, a former BYU basketball star, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks last season and played in 32 games. The long-distance relationship can be challenging, but Collinsworth appreciates the fact that Kyle recognizes the struggles of a burgeoning pro athlete better than most.
“Kyle has his own athletic goals, so he understands why I want to run professionally,” Collinsworth said. “I don’t think anyone else could have done that, so honestly, it’s worked out perfectly that I married him. I would not be here if not for Kyle.”
Collinsworth, of course, is used to having success as a runner. A three-time Utah high school state champion in both the 800 and 1,600, she showed off her range by also claiming two state cross country titles and twice qualifying for Nike Cross Nationals in Portland.
At BYU, she posted a string of PRs early in her senior season which drew the attention of Rowland – 2:01.42 in the 800, 4:15.81 in the 1,500 and 4:35.76 in the mile. Collinsworth is eager to set new PRs, and she has ambitious goals as a runner, especially with Oregon21 on the horizon. However, she and Rowland both know this is likely to be a year of transition.
“We will progress slowly,” Rowland said. “We will educate her along the way to establish solid routines. Training consistently and finishing workouts strong are what I would fundamentally want from Shea this season.”